What is a Nutmeg in Soccer? (Full Explanation)
Getting ‘nutmegged’ by an opponent is one of the most humiliating experiences in soccer.
It will leave a player hanging their head in shame as spectators cheer loudly from stands, confirming their embarrassment.
The nutmeg in soccer is capable of injecting fresh energy into the tired legs of teammates and can help inspire a team to victory if used at the right time.
Whether it’s in the heat of a match or during a small kick around with friends, nutmegging someone is always satisfying as it relies on perfect timing to pull off successfully.
Use it at the wrong time, however, and it could spell disaster for your team and make you look like a fool for attempting such a difficult move.
For those still wondering, let’s talk about what exactly a nutmeg is and when it should be used.
What is a Nutmeg?
A nutmeg is when you pass the ball between an opponent’s legs and retrieve the ball on the other side.
Though it may sound simple, it’s remarkably difficult to pull off.
That is, unless you’re one of the ‘nutmeg masters’ like Jamie Shawyer in the video below:
After evading your opponent's challenge and slipping the ball through their legs, you need to make sure that you can get to the ball before another opponent steps in to dispossess you.
There’s no point nutmegging an opponent if the ball is going to go straight to a defender.
This requires you to time the nutmeg to perfection and also to perfectly judge the space behind the opponent where you can place the ball.
A player attempting this move needs to make sure their technique is on point and that they don’t hit the ball too hard or too soft.
Why You *Shouldn’t* Use the Nutmeg Move
As a coach, let me play devil's advocate for a second before explaining how to do it…
Soccer should be simple and effective.
If you’re competing in a serious game with the goal of winning, you must understand that the nutmeg is a very advanced and risky move to make.
Not many players have the skill (or luck) to make it work effectively.
If possible, you’ll have a much better chance of success by playing the easy ball to a teammate and then getting the ball back once you’ve skipped past your opponent.
Only use the nutmeg in ‘fun’ situations or when you have no other option.
But, if you are going to use the nutmeg, let’s talk about the best times to use it...
When Can You Use the Nutmeg?
There are certain situations and areas of the pitch where you should never use the nutmeg…
For example, attempting a nutmeg in front of your penalty box or in the middle of the park where your opponents can then pour towards goal is probably a bad idea.
But, there are some situations where it could be an option.
Here are a few of them:
- If an opponent is running towards you too fast and they’re off balance.
- If you’re running down the wing and need to get past the fullback.
- If you see an opponent’s legs are wide open when attempting a pass near them.
- When you’re one-on-one with the keeper and they come charging out you might see an opportunity to slip the ball through their legs.
Obviously, these all depend on the specific situation and a number of other factors too, but these are times when a nutmeg may be an option.
Combining this with other soccer moves and tricks can be a deadly formula if executed correctly.
Now that you know when to use it, let’s talk about how to nutmeg an opponent…
How to Nutmeg an Opponent In Soccer
For a nutmeg to be successful, there needs to be an element of surprise.
This usually involves drawing in an opponent, confusing them with a move or two, and then finally slipping the ball through their legs.
Nutmegs will often occur when a player is attempting to steal the ball or block a pass / cross and they overcommit as you can see below in this crazy video:
To make it happen, a player needs to perfectly judge when their opponent’s legs will be open.
Using dribble moves or performing soccer tricks can throw the defender off balance which will create an opportunity where a nutmeg might be appropriate to attempt.
(But as I keep saying... If you can get past the opponent without nutmegging them, this will always be the preferred option!)
Here’s a quick 3-step guide to get you started:
1. Dribble towards your opponent and get them to start backpedaling, uncertain of when to put in a challenge and where the ball will be.
2. Once you draw them in to making a tackle, quickly slip the ball between their legs.
3. Finally, sprint around your opponent and regain possession.
Getting the timing right is key…
And you also need to make sure that you hit the ball hard enough that it goes through their legs, but soft enough that it doesn’t go too far beyond them.
Remember that nutmegs should only be attempted when there is a high chance of success.
There you have it…
What a nutmeg is, when to use it, and how to do it.
If you’re able to pull it off during a game, I guarantee you’ll enrage all of your opponents and quickly make them lose their cool.
Potentially drawing fouls in dangerous places and definitely throwing them off their game.
When used in the right place and at the right time, the nutmeg is a useful move to have in your bag of tricks and can hype up the crowd and your teammates.